A TASTE OF THE PAST

Friday - - Editor’s Letter - Mri­nal Shekar Deputy Ed­i­tor mshekar@gulfnews.com

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row­ing up there were no multi­na­tional fast food joints with staff in shower caps, plas­tic gloves and syn­thetic aprons sell­ing food on sani­tised trays. Only fam­ily-run shacks or street carts ped­dling stuff that was made right in front of you in con­di­tions that were ba­sic, to say the least. You either stood right there on the road­side and ate off a plate made of dry leaves, or got a takeaway in pieces of old news­pa­per. Hy­giene was never a con­sid­er­a­tion. Taste and per­son­al­ity were.

Whether it was the portly sweet maker who squat­ted close to a charred gi­ant wok, squirt­ing squig­gles of jalebi over boil­ing hot oil that was as black as the wok it­self, or the el­derly lady who sold chilled lemon­ade from a chipped, dusty clay pot, they were the Miche­lin stars of our child­hood; peo­ple who had us eat­ing out of their hands with their big smiles and equally gen­er­ous por­tions, their spell­bind­ing deft­ness,

Be it the portly sweet maker who squat­ted close to the WOK, squirt­ing squig­gles of JALEBI over hot oil, or the el­derly lady who sold lemon­ade from a dusty clay pot, they were the MICHE­LIN stars of our child­hood

and their abil­ity to al­ways de­liver taste that no­body else could match.

Nos­tal­gia, as a chef in the fea­ture ‘A Taste of In­dia’ on page 32 says, is tough to recre­ate on a plate. And I agree. While sit­ting in an exquisitely de­signed restau­rant, el­e­gantly run­ning my knife through a succulent piece of chicken tikka that was served with a quenelle of spiced foam with spots and strokes of three dif­fer­ent rel­ishes and sal­ads, I too found my­self mak­ing a quick trip down mem­ory lane to a hovel of a place from my past. The owner was the butcher, chef and busi­ness­man all rolled in one. Crude in ap­pear­ance but a mas­ter of his trade. In short, an iconic ke­bab maker, in my book.

And was the chicken tikka on the tines of my fork any­where close to the taste of what I con­sider best?

I refuse to com­pare. Nos­tal­gia might be de­li­cious but it leaves me hun­gry. Un­til next week,

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